St. Patrick’s Day is only a week away, can you believe it? Now, I’m not Irish, and I’ve never really ‘celebrated’ St. Paddy’s but I do like to observe most holiday’s and occasions with at least a good or special meal. This year I’m feeling a little more festive, I guess it’s the ugly weather we’re having, it makes me daydream a lot, and one of the places I’ve been dreaming about lately is Ireland in the Summer. Thanks no doubt to all of the Flogging Molly, The Pogues, Gaelic Storm and Dropkick Murphys I’ve been listening to of late. Anyway, I feel festive and inspired so I wanted to observe this year’s St. Paddy’s with a weeks worth of Irish style cooking.
Now, I know Irish fare may not seem all that vegan friendly to you, after all what is Irish cuisine most famous for? Potatoes, Cabbage and Meat - particularly bacon - and it’s also probably never struck you as a particularly creative or mouth-watering style of cooking. You never hear people say “I’m really craving Irish today.” Anyway. However I think the culinary traditions of England, Scotland and Ireland get a bad rap, it may not be ‘haute cuisine’ it may not have the fire of Latin cuisine, or say the romance of Italian but to say the Irish lack culinary creativity is to do them and their cuisine a disservice. Honestly I think the lack of creativity when it comes to Irish cooking has more to do with people outside of Ireland trying to re-create Irish food. I mean just open up any Vegan cook book that includes recipes for St. Patrick’s Day, and tell me what you see. Recipes for Champ, Colcannon - both of which I might add can basically be defined as mashed potatoes - cream of broccoli, pea, asparagus - anything green really - soup, and Irish soda bread. It’s repetitive and boring! But don’t think omnivores are any more ingenious when it comes to recreating Irish cooking. Bacon and cabbage, mashed potatoes and corned beef are about all I ever hear omnivores eating, and corned beef, really? Now I have a huge bone to pick with people who say corned beef is Irish - it’s not. First of all corned beef is just a name for salt-cured beef, and salt curing beef as well as other meats has been done since ancient times. As the dish that we know today noone is exactly sure who started it or when but it became popular with the British Navy during the 18th century English Industrial Revolution. The Irish may have been making a form of corned beef around this time to sell to the British navy but they likely weren’t eating it themselves.
|Seitan in Mustard Cream Sauce|
In fact, the entire time I was in Ireland - and keep in mind that I traveled the entire country from Dublin to Derry, and the Giants Causeway, to Galway, to Kerry, to Waterford, Cork and the Wicklow Mountains - I never once, on any restaurant menu saw Corned Beef as an option. It’s interesting that in Ireland Corned Beef is almost exclusively only sold to tourists or sold in tourist geared establishments, and that the majority of Irish in Ireland do not identify this food with Traditional, National Cuisine. It’s also interesting to note that corned beef actually has a stronger connection to Jewish Cuisine then it does Irish. But I digress - we were talking about a lack of creativity. When you ask the average person what they eat in Ireland you’ll undoubtably get the response “potatoes” and while it’s true that the Potato - still to this day - is the number one most commonly eaten vegetable in Ireland - along with cabbage and carrots - it does not mean that Irish cuisine has to be bland, boring, or potato heavy.
A lot of wonderful things grow in Ireland, from herbs such as parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme, to garlic, onions, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, cabbage artichokes, sunchokes, asparagus, and seaweed! Eating seaweed in Ireland isn’t just for the vegetarians and vegans! Mustard, wine and cream are also common for making sauces and flavoring dishes, so you see there’s a bounty of available options that any chef worth his or her salt could use to invent a dish that’s far more creative and tastier then corned beef or colcannon.
So for my first foray into Irish cooking I decided to try out a dish that utilized a mustard cream sauce. I’m a big fan of mustard - Dijon or stone ground in particular - and so a creamy, mustardy sauce with fresh garlic and herbs quite appealed to me. Now traditionally this is a sauce usually served with lambs kidneys - or the kidneys of any game animal - which is disgusting, and not something I would have even eaten back in the days when I ate meat, so I had to come up with something else. However since I wanted to keep the spirit of the dish alive I didn’t just want to throw some tofu or tempeh into a mustard sauce, that’s not all that creative is it? Besides organ meat is reported to be so flavorful that I didn’t think tofu would really make a good stand in.
I wanted something meaty and something with flavor and so I decided to make some Irish Style Seitan. I call it Irish Style because I flavored it with all of the most common herbs used in Irish cuisine, basil, celery seed, mint, sage, thyme, onion, garlic and parsley. It may not taste like a lambs kidney but it holds flavor notes true to Irish cooking and that’s all that matters. Seitan also stands up well to a good simmer, and retains a nice chewy texture.
Since the dish is also traditionally served over a bed of white rice - to soak up the sauce - and a salad I decided to do one better. I served my Irish style Seitan in mustard cream sauce over wild rice, and served it with a big ole’ pile of crispy cabbage. Crispy cabbage by the way is also another traditional Irish side dish, and while it may not be super creative it is surprisingly really satisfying as well as delicious! It’s hard to believe something so simple can be so good, but it is.
Make sure when you eat this meal you get a fork full of rice, sauce, seitan and cabbage all at once. Heaven!
|The Full Plate - Seitan, Mustard Cream Sauce, Crispy Cabbage |
and Wild Rice
Irish Style Seitan with Mustard Cream Sauce
1 lb Irish Style Seitan Sliced into rounds or cubed (Recipe Follows)
2 Tbsp Earth Balance or other non-dairy butter
1 C White Wine
2-4 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
8 Garlic Cloves Minced
6-7 Green Onions sliced thin
½ Bunch Fresh Parsley Minced
2 Tbsp Fresh Minced Rosemary
1/4 tsp ground Thyme
Celtic Sea Salt to taste
1/4 - ½ tsp White Pepper
6 Tbsp Unsweetened Almond Milk (or other non-dairy milk)
- Melt butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Place seitan rounds or chunks in the butter and fry for 2-3 minutes a side until nice and brown. Remove seitan from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate.
- Pour the wine into the pan, and add the garlic, onion, and herbs. Stir to combine and then let simmer for 5-10 minutes until reduced slightly and garlic is cooked.
- Add the almond milk to the pan and stir until combined and creamy. Season with salt and pepper, then return the seitan to the pan and heat through.
- Serve Seitan and mustard cream sauce over wild rice, garnished with extra parsley. With a nice side salad or crispy cabbage (recipe follows)
Now - Making Seitan is super simple and actually really quick. Trust me when I say that if you can bake a cake you can make seitan. I love the steam method, it's fast, cheap, and requires little prep. Basically mix a bunch of stuff in a bowl roll it into loaves and steam away, what could be easier and it's done in under an hour! I like to make a big ole' batch of seitan every 2-3 months and sore it in the freezer for quick and easy use. I will probably use this particular seitan recipe for several dishes to come later this week.
Irish Style Seitan
1 ½ C Water + 1 Vegan Beef Boullion Cube (Could use a dark vegetable broth instead)
1 ½ C Vital Wheat Gluten
1/4 C Chickpea Flour
1/4 C Nutritional Yeast
1 ½ tsp Dried Basil
½-3/4 tsp Celery Seed
3/4 tsp Dried Mint
1 tsp Sage
1 1/4 tsp Dried Thyme
3 tsp Dehydrated Onion Flakes
3 Tbsp Tomato Paste
3 Tbsp Tamari
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
6 Garlic Cloves minced
- Mix all dry ingredients and spices together in a large bowl.
- Whisk together the broth, tomato paste, tamari, olive oil and minced garlic, in a small bowl.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour the wet ingredients in. Mix until combined and a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and kneed for 2-3 minutes. Then return the dough to the bowl and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Cut 4 rectangles of aluminum foil.
- Turn the dough out and kneed for another minute. Then divide the dough into 4 chunks. Shape the chunks into small oval loaves.
- Place one chunk of dough onto one sheet of aluminum foil. Fold the long side of the aluminum foil over the dough. Fold over the sides of the foil, then roll up like you would roll a burrito. Don’t roll the foil too tight because you need to leave a little room for the seitan to expand.
- Once all the chunks are rolled in the foil, place them into a steamer basket and steam for 45 minutes until nice and pulp. Seitan should be firm but springy.
- When seitan is done, remove from the steamer basket and place on a wire rack or plate to cool. Let cool for one hour and then place in the refrigerator or freezer until you’re ready to use it. Should keep in the freezer for 2-3 months if placed in an airtight container or zip-lock bag.
1 Medium Head of Green or Savoy Cabbage sliced thin
2 Tbsp Peanut Oil
2-3 Tbsp Fresh Minced Parsley
Celtic Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste
- Heat Peanut oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.
- Add the cabbage and stir-fry 3-5 minutes, until just cooked but still crisp. Make sure you really watch it, you don’t want it to wilt, get mushy, or burn. A few golden spots are okay but it should retain it’s bright green color.
- Season with sea salt, pepper, and parsley and serve.
1 ½ C Wile Rice
3 ½ C Water
- Place in a rice cooker and cook according to cooker’s directions.
PS: Sorry I forgot to take pictures of the seitan making process but I promise to do so next time! Also if you need this to be wheat-free you could try it with Tempeh. Tempeh is chewy enough to work, though you wont' get the added flavor of the seasoned seitan.